Farhan Devji writes the biography of Canada’s rising soccer star, Alphonso Davies, born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana.
By Rohan Stritch | 28 April 2023
A Vancouver-based author has penned the first biography of Canadian soccer megastar and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Alphonso Davies. Alphonso Davies: A New Hope, set to launch May 2nd, documents Davies’ rise from a refugee camp in Ghana to the height of the soccer world. Built on years of interviews with his friends, family, teachers, coaches, and teammates, author Farhan Devji brings this spectacular story to life.
In March 2021, Davies became the first footballer and first Canadian to be appointed as a Global Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. Accepting his role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Davies said: “I am proud to join the UN Refugee Agency, as a Goodwill Ambassador. My own experiences make me want to speak up for refugees, to share their stories and to help make a difference.”
While amplifying Davies’ incredible journey to where he is today, Devji goes one step farther by choosing to donate a portion of the royalties from the book to UNHCR. We asked him to share with UNHCR Canada more about his experience.
Farhan, you previously worked on a documentary about Alphonso Davies. Can you take us through how that evolved into writing a biography and what inspired you to write this book?
It was a privilege to help share Alphonso’s story with the world back in 2017, when I was working for the Vancouver Whitecaps. At the time, we got word that Alphonso could soon become a Canadian citizen and we wanted to do something special to celebrate the occasion. Thankfully, his parents welcomed us into their home and opened up about their journey to Canada from the Liberian civil war and the Buduburam refugee camp, and that’s how our documentary was born. Like many, I was incredibly moved by their story. And I knew there was a lot more to it, which is why I decided to write this biography. Having previously worked with Alphonso and followed his career closely since he was 15 years old, I felt uniquely positioned to do so. I wanted to dig deeper, speak to different people who have been part of Alphonso’s life, and give readers a better understanding of how he got to where he is today.
What impact do you hope this book will have?
When I think about what Alphonso’s story represents, it’s hope. That’s why we have the word in the subtitle of the book. Hope for young Canadian soccer players looking to play at the highest level. Hope for refugees who just want an opportunity to start a new life free of violence and persecution. Alphonso has shown that both are possible. So, if this book gives someone a little hope and inspires them to pursue their dreams, that would be pretty special. Beyond that, I just hope that I’ve done the story justice and people come away from this feeling like they’ve learned something.
Is there anything that surprised you in the writing of this story?
One thing that stuck with me is the statistic that less than one per cent of the world’s refugees are resettled every year. The rest either have to remain in the country of asylum, which isn’t always an ideal long-term solution. Or they have to return home, where they may still be at risk from the reasons that forced them to flee in the first place. So, when you think about it, Alphonso and his family were among the lucky ones. I know that seems crazy to say considering everything they’ve been through, but there are millions of refugees every year who aren’t afforded the same opportunities they were. They got to start a new life in Canada, and they took full advantage.
You have decided, with the support of your publisher ECW Press, to donate partial proceeds from your book to the UN Refugee Agency. What led you to choose UNHCR?
It was a natural choice. This is the same organization that gave Alphonso’s family a home when they had nowhere else to go, and ultimately helped them find a new one in Canada. The work UNHCR is doing to protect and support people who have been displaced is extremely important. I know there are a lot of refugees out there who need access to shelter, food, and clean water, and that donations to UNHCR support those very things. Hopefully this can help make a difference in someone’s life.
Your own parents come from Kenya, and you grew up on Vancouver Island, BC. Can you share with us how this background has shaped the work you do?
As a second-generation Canadian, there’s a small part of me that could relate to Alphonso’s story. In the 1970s, my parents and most of my extended family left their homes during a time of political unrest in East Africa and came to Canada for a better life. I’ve heard stories about some of the challenges they faced – back home and as new immigrants – and I know they’re forever grateful to Canada for opening its doors. There’s no doubt this has helped shaped me as a person and the stories I aim to highlight.
Thanks to Farhan Devji, author of Alphonso Davies: A New Hope, this remarkable journey of resilience, aspiration and triumph will reach an even wider audience. Order your copy today!
About ‘Alphonso Davies: A New Hope’
Arguably the most famous Canadian athlete on the planet, Alphonso Davies has been the subject of global attention after bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old soccer sensation. Since then, he’s won every trophy imaginable with German giant FC Bayern Munich and helped Canada reach the men’s World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
Based on years of original reporting and extensive interviews with his friends, family members, teachers, coaches, teammates, and others from his inner circle, Alphonso Davies: A New Hope paints a complete portrait of the soccer star. The first biography about “Phonzie” covers every angle of his life and career — from the harsh realities of growing up in a refugee camp amidst the Liberian Civil War, to the unique challenges of starting a new life in a foreign country, twice, to his trailblazing path as a Canadian megastar in the world’s most popular sport.
Bringing together intimate details and never-before-told stories, author Farhan Devji pulls back the curtain on a person and player who has captured the hearts of a nation and become a shining light for refugees everywhere. Pre-order here.
About Farhan Devji
Farhan Devji is a multiplatform storyteller whose writing has appeared in the Edmonton Journal and Ottawa Citizen. As the former club reporter for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, he produced the award-winning documentary Becoming Canadian: The Alphonso Davies Story. A proud second-generation Canadian, Devji lives in Vancouver with his wife, Sarah.
Established in 1950, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights, and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people.
For more information on UNHCR, please visit: www.unhcr.ca
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